Sunday, April 24, 2005

Brother Wladimir keeps his name in the mix

By JE Grant

Former WBO heavyweight belt-holder Wladimir Klitschko (44-3, 40 KOs) scored a much-needed and convincing stoppage of previously undefeated Eliseo Castillo (18-1-1, 14 KOs) in four rounds in a scheduled ten-rounder in Dortmund, Germany Saturday.

Klitschko peppered the much smaller and less willing Castillo with jabs before landing a right hand that sent the Cuban to the canvas at 2:51 of the fourth. Castillo managed to beat the count, but as he stumbled to his corner, referee Daniel van de Wiele stopped the contest.

Backers and detractors could easily find whatever they wanted from this fight. Backers could point to the fact that Klitschko, 241, patiently cut-off Castillo, 215, and controlled him with a powerful and accurate jab.

Wladimir's jab, quite likely the best in the division since all-time great Larry Holmes’ piston-like weapon, never allowed Castillo to get anywhere near his chin --- you know, the thing that everyone of the 9,000 fans in attendance held a collective breath wondering about.

Klitschko’s right-hand, held back for most of the fight, was drilled with precision when the time came to launch.

Detractors could see early that Castillo, did not come to strike fear into the heart of Klitschko. He never pressed the action. His hand and foot speed, considered his best attributes coming into the bout, were not even close to that of Wladimir.

Call it what one will, it was the kind of fight a busy contender fights. Castillo was undefeated and generally able, if somewhat under-gunned. Klitschko will likely need to pound out another win or two until one of the sanctioning bodies forces one of the belt-holders into the ring with him.

The truth is, Wladimir was never the wunderkid that he was hyped as. He’s also not the empty shell of a fighter that the naysayers claim either. He has some limits but many of the top fighters today would not have a chance to expose his chin problem.

There’s no mystery when it comes to Chris Byrd. Klitschko pounded him throughout their bout; Byrd never threatened Wladimir for one second of any round. Byrd crashed to the canvas twice and spent the rest of the fight barely holding onto his consciousness. There is no indication whatsoever that any future bout between the two would be much different. If anything, Byrd has slowed since then and is likely to make a few more trips to the canvas --- possibly not beating the count.

John Ruiz likewise poses limited opposition to Wladimir. One must give credit to Ruiz for finding odd ways to win fights, but he would be controlled by Klitschko’s jab much the way Wladimir controlled Castillo. Ruiz is no real hitter --- thus he has no real chance.

Of course Lamon Brewster does indeed stand a chance. He took Klitschko’s best, hit the deck, and came back to win. It is true that except for the last round of their bout, it appeared that he bordered on being stopped himself. It is also true that he would enter a rematch with the confidence of knowing that he could take the blows and keep on chugging. That is no small advantage.

Naturally, a fight with his brother Vitali is a non-starter.

Wladimir still has to climb the mountain to take one or more of the titles --- nothing will be given to him. There really are no shortcuts. He will continue to have critics and that makes his fights have an edge that they didn’t when he was walking over the field of contenders pre-Sanders and Brewster.

A quick prediction: Wladimir Klitschko will capture either the IBF or WBA title within one year. There are those who say he doesn't deserve a shot --- and all that blather --- but he of course has real victories on his record against real contenders. That cannot be dismissed so easily. He must keep winning and must do it often. This writer thinks he will.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Solid review.

4:00 PM  

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